Container Gardening For Beginners:
What is Container Gardening?
It is a garden that cultivates vegetables, flowers or fruits on the rooftops, backyard, balconies or in patio in containers or pots instead of planting them in earth or ground is called container gardening or pot gardening. A container gardening is a portable garden as most of the plants are planted in small pots, containers which are portable. The containers can be from clay pots, plastic pots, window boxes, tubs, tins, barrel, and baskets and they can be of used ones too.
Container gardening allows the grower to grow plants in almost any environment, and weather. Container gardens are one of the fastest growing segments of gardening, especially in rural regions. Plants grown in portable containers are used to bring natural aura of variety and appeal to your house landscape. A creative garden artist can change the whole look of a house or place by choosing attractive containers and exotic plants like creating a floral arrangement for recreation or choosing edible plants to produce vegetables for daily kitchen needs.
Container gardening is a perfect start activity for beginner gardeners. Pot gardening adds instant color and liveliness to the landscape and outdoor living spaces. A container garden is an easy low-cost with minimum maintenance to grow your own food. Gardening in portable containers allows you to move plants depending from porch to patio to house steps to living rooms.
Limitations in Container Gardening
Though there are advantages in container gardening so also there are disadvantages or limitations in container gardening. Since plants grow in containers they need regular and timely watering irrespective of seasons. As most of the containers are indoors or under shade they cannot be fed with rain water in rainy seasons unlike in-ground gardens. Regular soil fertilizing must be done as frequent and over water feeding will leach nutrients from the soil. There are also limitations in growing certain types of plants and vining crops in containers because of their growing habits and sizes. Some large containers cannot be moved easily, so planning while placing huge containers must be carefully done. Once plants grown in huge and heavy containers can be quite heavy and may even spoil the flooring while relocating. A proper landscaping and planning can be addressed to a large extent of these limitations.
Container Gardening sizes and materials
Be creative while choosing a container. Half of the fun of pot gardening is achieved in selecting containers or pots that fit the look you wish to create. Containers can be as simple as ice cream or paint buckets to fancy wooden planting boxes. Containers either can be new or used ones of any materials including clay, baskets with coconut coir lining or wire baskets, ceramic pots, plastic boxes, cement pots, wooden containers. Gardening has become a passion in some urban regions that market have come up with self-watering containers, built-in reservoirs for watering plants with improved drainage.
However simple or fancy the containers you choose, the containers must have proper bottom hole for adequate drainage. Water logged containers will lead to poor plant growth as water fills the space with no room for air which is necessary for proper root growth.
Containers made of clay and wood (porous material) allow air movement into root zone but lose moisture easily. Whereas plastic and metal (non-porous materials) hold the soil moisture but restrict air movement at root zone, care must be taken in providing proper drainage holes which is essential.
The pots must be large enough to hold minimum grow medium for mature plants to grow. Avoid using black color containers in full sun, they absorb heat especially in summer and increase soil temperature which will affect the root growth. Avoid using containers which were used to store toxic materials earlier.
Plan ahead before planting whether the pots will be moved during growing season. Pots that look natural and are porous being exposed to moisture and changing weather will deteriorate in the course of time. Non-porous containers will have longer life span, can be available in various designs but are often expensive.
Selecting plants for Container Gardening
Selection of plants depends on the climate and the amount of sun or shade the containers are exposed to. Almost any vegetable, flower, herbs or small tree can be grown successfully in containers. Container gardening can be enjoyed by gardeners imagination by combining edible and flower plants for pleasing and colorful effects.
Most vegetables are perennial and some are seasonal plants making excellent container garden plants. Growing vegetables in containers need consistent soil moisture, timely fertilizing, and depending on the plant size and growing habits, plant the seedlings in the right containers. Your container kitchen garden must include herbs, salad greens and vegetables depending on pricing and consumption. Look for more information on seed packets about varieties description – hybrid, bush, tiny, dwarf or patio when purchasing seeds. Follow the instructions for depth and plant spacing.
|Vegetables||Container Depth in cm|
|Beets, Parsley, Radish, Bush beans, Lettuce, Spinach and other greens||14 to 16 cm|
|Carrots, Mustard greens, Peas, Pepper||16 to 20 cm|
|Summer squash, Cucumber, Eggplant,||20 to 25 cm|
|Tomato, Cauliflower, Broccoli||30 to 45 cm|
The container sizes are mentioned in the above table to accommodate the plant roots when fully grown. The general rule when planting flower plants are the larger the height of the flower, the more root mass is created and choose the container accordingly.
Preparing Soil in Container Gardening
Soil or growing medium must provide support to the plant, water, nutrients and must drain well for the plant to grow healthily. A gardener can easily get compost or synthetic soil mixes at a local garden store. Potting soil must be free from weed seeds, insects and disease organisms. Soils with high clay particles will be compact and reduce oxygen to the roots. It is recommended to go for soilless mixes or synthetic soils for fruit vegetable gardening as they are composed of sawdust, wood chops, peat moss or vermiculite.
Gardener can also prepare by mixing one bushel of vermiculite with one bushel of peat moss, add limestone – ten tablespoons, garden fertilizer – one cup, adequate cow manure as a nutrient source and mix thoroughly. Once a year soil must be replaced with fresh soils and pruning of roots to maintain plant health and vigor.
Hydroponics is growing fast and is also a type of container gardening. Unlike conventional type of gardening, it requires electricity, and some gadgets. In this method the plants are grown without soil medium and the roots develop in nutrient solutions that are directly available to the plants.
Fertilization in Container Gardening
There are different ways to fertilize the soil. Nurseries and garden centers have both time-release and water soluble fertilizers. While time-release fertilizer must be mixed with potting soil at the time of planting and water soluble fertilizer are mixed with water and used at regular intervals when the plants grow actively. The most easy and effortless way to fertilize soils is by preparing nutrient solution and pour it over the soil mix. Organic fertilizers take time to absorb in soil and attract pests and insects. Always follow the instructions on the labels as directed. High and over dosage may even lead to plant death.
Watering in Container Gardening
Because of the exposed sides of the containers, evaporation rate is much higher so more frequent watering is required compared to in-ground gardening. Proper watering is essential to any type of garden but it must be adequate and not over watering. Over watering either will lead to nutrient leakage through drainage holes or water-logging will let roots die from lack of oxygen. Care should be taken not to wet foliage or young shoots as wet leaves will draw pests and other plant diseases.
Most gardeners prefer mixing hydrogels in soil before planting and its becoming more popular in home gardening. These water holding gels absorb more water than their weight and soil absorbs water as it dries.
Mulches are also one way help in storing water and moisture by not letting evaporate and keep the soil temperature in control. Plastic mulches are available in nurseries, wood chippings, dried leaves, straw, grass clippings can be used.
Light in Container Gardening
Nearly all flowering plants, water plants, and fruiting vegetables grow better with a minimum of six to eight hours of full sun each day. Root vegetables do best with four to six hours of sun light and can tolerate shade, whereas leafy vegetables and many herbs should receive at least four hours of sun in a day. Some foliage plants are best located in filtered light or continuous shade. One of the big advantage to gardening in portable pots is that they can be moved to places where they can receive best possible growing conditions.
Container Gardening Harvesting
Harvest vegetables at their peak of maturity for the best flavor and texture. Regular harvest of fruit vegetable and herb leaves must be done timely as over ripened ones cannot be stored for long. At the end of the season discard soil from the pot and use fresh soil medium for the next planting. Recycling the same soil for the next plantation or for the next season will lead to less yield production. There is a high possibility of spreading diseases if the soil is infected to the next planting.
Diseases and Insects in Container Gardening
Container Gardening is susceptible to the same diseases and pests as any type of vegetable garden or agriculture fields. A regular check can let you detect fruit and foliage feeding pests and diseases, by using insecticides and fungicides in a timely manner from the local garden stores or nurseries will protect the garden.
Container Gardening care and tips
- Use water holding gels which will retain moisture for longer periods.
- Anchor trellises and staking properly for vining plants to prevent them from falling or blowing over.
- Recycling used containers and pots must be properly bleached to kill pests and removes previous plant fertilizers.
- Containers and pots must have proper drainage and no over drainage holes.
- Use saucers or bricks or legs underneath the containers for proper drainage and to keep the floor surface.
- Plants in container gardening needs regular feeding.